Adventures in Peace (Corps)

Azerbaiwho?

Waiting…waiting…waiting…seemed to be what Friday, August 6th was all about. I left work with no delivery from UPS. My mom was stationed at the house all day and I had my hand on my mouse and was obsessively refreshing the tracking page on the UPS website. At 5:00pm I left work, went to the Kent compound, walked the Lottie dog, ran a couple of errands, and then my cell phone rang …it was my mom…she had news…I stopped in my tracks to listen to what she had to say:

Me: “Well, where am I going?”
Mom: “I don’t know, I haven’t opened the package.”
Me: “You haven’t opened the package? What are you waiting for woman? Open the bloody package!!!”
Mom: “You want me to open the package? But I can bring it to you.”
Me: “Mom, it’s Friday night. Traffic is terrible. Please, open the package.”
Mom: “Dear Glendene, CONGRATULATIONS! It is with great pleasure that we invite you to begin training in Republic of Azerbaijan.”

I pause…Azerbaijan? Where in the world is Azerbaijan? How do you spell Azerbaijan? Neither of us have a clue. My mom hops on her computer, Googles Azerbaijan and she tells me that AZ is above Iran, below Russia, to the east of Georgia & Armenia, and west of the Caspian Sea.  The Caspian Sea. Immediately I think of my friend Julie Dean. I met her circa 1990. We were Hare Krishnas together. She left before me and moved to Hawaii where I eventually moved as well. She used to dream of visiting the Caspian Sea. I used to think she was really cool because she knew where the Caspian Sea was. What a trip. Now I’m going to a country that is right on the Caspian Sea. Who would’ve known that those two words would become my destiny?

I was kind of numb. One year and one month of waiting. Azerbaijan was not where I expected to land. I don’t know, I thought I would land in Romania, Ukraine, Albania, Macedonia, but Azerbaijan? Almost nobody’s ever heard of Azerbaijan. I was not bummed, just numb because I know nothing of this country, and as opinionated as I tend to be, it’s hard to have an opinion about something I know nothing about. Usually, an invitee has 10 business days to respond to the invitation, but for some reason I was given 7 calendar days. I know this because they crossed out the line that says “10 business days” and hand wrote “7 calendar days.” Welcome to the Peace Corps.

I leave for staging on Sept. 23, 2010. I don’t know where my staging area will be yet, but it will likely be somewhere on the east coast of the US. This is the place that all the volunteers headed to AZ will meet, become acquainted with one another, get inoculated, receive their government passports, and fly off to the great land of the east. Once I am in AZ, I will begin an intense program of language and cultural immersion training. From what I understand, I will have six hours of language training per day, six days a week, and I will move in with a host family that I am required to live with for the first three months. This family becomes my mother, father, sister, brother, grandmother, grandfather, etc.

Even though I have been invited to serve in AZ, and I have accepted the invitation, it is not until after my 3 months training period ends and I am sworn in that I officially become a volunteer in the PC. Apparently, either I or the PC can decide that I should go home. Some of the reasons for this decision can be having a lot of difficulty learning the language, lack of acculturation, or I decide that the gig just aint my cup of tea.

My official title is Community Economic Development Advisor. Sounds spiffy, don’t it? What this means is that I will be working with NGOs and community leaders to help them figure out the best ways of developing business in their respective communities. For instance, say a farmer needs to figure out a way to get her/his produce to market. My job will be to help that person figure it out. Yes, yes, I know, I know, you’re all thinking, “that’s the perfect job for our Glendene. Living in Los Angeles, she has great expertise in helping farmers get their produce to market.” Well, I may not have much experience working with farmers, but my 15 years of business acumen will certainly be put to good use here I’m sure. I’ve been reading the blog of a woman who spent 30 plus years working in the banking industry, joined the PC in AZ, and has the same title that I have in the PC. She works with an NGO that distributes micro-loans to people. So basically, I have no idea what I’ll be doing exactly as this will be determined based on the need of the community I am working in. That’s the good thing about the PC. We do not go into an area and say, “You need to do this, this and that,” rather, we are INVITED to go into an area and wait to see what the community in that area is asking for help with. I like this attitude. It hopefully means that we are wanted there as opposed to forcing our opinions and ideals onto them.

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10 responses

  1. Chef said…

    Amazing Glendene. I can’t wait for them to hear your azerbaijani language skills you have already aquiredbaijani!! I am looking forward to your adventures and hope you have time to keep up on them!

    August 16, 2010 at 6:03 pm

  2. vivian_poutakoglou said…

    Wow Glendene! This is so amazing! You are going on a life changing journey, and I bet you’ll be a fantastic Community Eco Dev Advisor! I can’t wait to follow your life, the people you meet and of your experienes in Azerbaijani! Many blessings for a safe and fantastic journey. Viv

    August 16, 2010 at 6:06 pm

  3. LAgirl said…

    i can’t wait til you figure out how to say “oh shit!” in azerbaijani! LOL! i’ll be following you on here! P o E

    August 16, 2010 at 6:06 pm

  4. Barbara said…

    So exciting! I look forward to future entries.

    August 16, 2010 at 6:07 pm

  5. Mitch said…

    You said: “This family becomes my mother, father, sister, brother, grandmother, grandfather, etc.” It’s the “brother” part that gets me a little. Will I continue to be your brother or replaced by the new one? Will your new brother give you wonderful nieces like I have? Well, it’ll all be good.

    August 16, 2010 at 6:08 pm

  6. Brigitta said…

    FYI my first child, if a girl, was to be named Caspian. It is fate I tell you!! I’m so excited to read your blog. I hope that you can keep it up while you are volunteering. My heart is bursting with love for you. I LOVE YOU!!!!

    August 16, 2010 at 6:09 pm

  7. I am so excited for you…what an amazing journey you are about to embark upon! I am only sad, selfishly, as we just met and you are such a beautiful bright lite! Exactly what they need 🙂 I look forward to hearing all about the steps of your journey. Many blessings,
    Stephanie

    August 16, 2010 at 6:10 pm

  8. Stephanie said…

    I am so excited for you…what an amazing journey you are about to embark upon! I am only sad, selfishly, as we just met and you are such a beautiful bright lite! Exactly what they need 🙂 I look forward to hearing all about the steps of your journey. Many blessings,
    Stephanie

    August 16, 2010 at 6:12 pm

  9. RumDum said…

    “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.”
    I think that’s how Vonnegut put it.

    The August 2010 issue of Nat. Geographic (with the Bahamas on the cover) has an interesting article on Azerbaijan and it’s neighbors – the emphasis is economic, oil, rail, conflicts, and such but the photos in particular give a more human insight.
    Find it if you can.
    (And ask if you can switch to the Bahamas instead).
    Congratulations! Happy for ya!
    (p.s. Are you out of your mind?)
    love, Ralph

    August 17, 2010 at 6:14 pm

  10. Robin A. Barnette, ERYT500 said…

    I’ am so glad I got to meet you before you left!!! I Can’t wait to hear about all your adventures!!
    Peace and Light,
    Robin

    August 17, 2010 at 6:16 pm

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